Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brand A(my): You're A Fine Girl

I do think about my "brand" as a writer. Perhaps I shouldn't, but I do. "Brand" means that je ne sais quois that makes it an Amy Briant book. Is it the genre? Well, if so, I already screwed that up because I see myself as a mystery writer - and the first book I got published is a paranormal thriller. With an element of mystery! (Hopefully, the mystery is not "What is that smell?", though my protagonist does wonder that a lot in SHADOW POINT. No, the mystery is "Who [or what] is doing all these terrible things?!")

So, fine, I am a self-declared mystery writer. MYSTERY WRITER. We're all clear on that now. Which is why my second book is a love story. What? D'oh!!! OK, fine, love story but with an element of mystery!

Really. I swear.

Well, my third book is totally a mystery. Totally totally totally. Whew.

But now I'm working on my fourth novel and it appears to be a Post Apocalyptic YA story.

I am loving the opportunity to explore these different genres. Book #2, ROMEO FAILS (the love story) was an experiment for me. A successful one, in my opinion, because I'm proud of the book and I really like it.

Why do I consider it an experiment? First, it was an experiment in writing in 3rd person. That part turned out OK, but I'm really more of a 1st person kind of gal. (she said endearingly)


Second: Frankly, it was an experiment to see if I could (a) write a traditional romance and (b) crank it out in six months or less. Clearly, it was Commercial Amy (my only semi-evil alter ego) (one of many), not Artiste Amy, who came up with THAT one. Well, I gave it my best shot to write a traditional romance, but I couldn't have done it without the mystery element. Traditional romance is just not my thing. (in more ways than one :-)) I didn't crank it out in six months, either. Do I want to be the writer who cranks out traditional romances every six months for the money? Post-experiment, I have to say no, I guess I don't. Which is good, because I'm not capable of doing that. I'm just not built that way. There are very popular authors who do this - good for them, I say. Just not my thing. But I'm proud of ROMEO FAILS, glad I wrote this "one-off" and excited for people to read it! It's so different from SHADOW POINT - I wonder how folks will react. Hmmm...

Getting back to my "brand" theme for this rambling post of rambility: Genre alone has not yet defined what makes an Amy Briant book.

It's the voice, right?

Well... ROMEO FAILS deviates from my usual voice as well. 3rd person helped me to do that. Again, it was something I did on purpose - to see if I could. And I can... but I'm out of my comfort zone.

The voice is back big-time in #3. (HEAVENLY MOVES, the 1982 rock'n'roll murder mystery set in a Northern California beach town not unlike Santa Cruz, CA) It makes me smile just to think of that voice... well, after all, it is my voice.

Moving on to book #4, the post-apocalyptic YA story: this was an experiment, too, to find out if I can successfully write YA. I read YA. I read children's books, too. And cereal boxes. The classics. And lots of mysteries. So as a reader, yay YA. But YA is tricky as a writer... I have not been a Young Adult for a long, long time. You don't want to be preachy. You don't want to come off as some old bag who's trying to sound like a teenager. If you're writing about 17 years olds, you don't want to miss the mark and have them sounding like 14 year olds. Unless you're specifically trying to capture a particular time period, you don't want to get caught up in using too much YA slang because that will be out of fashion in six months. You don't want to curse too much. And sex in a YA book is a whole 'nother minefield.


Tricky.

So - I read books for adults, YA books, children's books. Always have (well, since I was about 12) and always will. And you know who writes the best YA books? Not YAs, for the most part. So being a grouchy old lady is not necessarily a drawback when it comes to writing YA.

Along with the trickiness comes a feeling of responsibility I do not experience when writing for adults. (you're on your own, grown-ups!) When I was a teenager, there was zero LGBT fiction available to me. Zero. Partly due to the marketplace, partly due to my circumstances. There is much more now and it's much easier to get your hands on it. I am keenly aware as an adult and a lesbian and an author, that if I write a YA book, the possibility exists that I could perhaps positively impact some young LGBT reader out there. Maybe in a small way. Maybe in a big way. Maybe change a life. Maybe save a life. Some books have this power.

Whew, that's way too heavy (not to mention pompous) for me to worry about!

I'm just a writer. So, what I need to focus on is writing a rip roaringly great story. That's all. That's my job as a writer.

Although if I end up writing a crappy book that somehow still manages to get published, I could still change lives. Some young lesbian aspiring writer out there might read it and think, "What a pile! I could totally write a better book than this one!"

Go to it, kiddo. :-) And you are WELCOME.

Inspiration, after all, comes in many forms.

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